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Auburn's Paulson thriving with the Pittsburgh Steelers
David Paulson stays true to himself.
Despite signing a lucrative, four-year, $2.1 million contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the rookie tight end from Auburn remains grounded.
Big money and an opportunity to play in the NFL haven’t gone to the head of a quiet kid at heart.
“I haven’t done anything too crazy with the money,” Paulson said last week from team headquarters in Pennsylvania. “I moved back here (Pittsburgh) so I did need a new car. I didn’t take my old one out, so I sold my old truck and got a newer one, but it’s not brand new or anything.
“I haven’t made any crazy purchases,” he added. “I’m just putting the money away and just saving up.”
Paulson is comfortable driving a 2010 Nissan Frontier. He enjoys the apartment he shares with his girlfriend.
The former Auburn Riverside and University of Oregon standout also fits in well with the 7-8 Steelers, who finish a disappointing season Sunday hosting Cleveland (5-10).
Paulson, a seventh-round draft pick, has found his rhythm with the Steelers, backing up eight-year tight end and Pro Bowler Heath Miller, his mentor.
“He’s great to have around. He’s been doing it for a long time at a really high level,” Paulson said of the veteran Miller. “He’s willing to help when you have questions. He’ll help you out with everything. He’s a great guy.”
When called upon, Paulson has responded. He has made seven catches for 51 yards for the season, including two catches in Pittsburgh’s 16-13 overtime win against Kansas City on Monday Night Football Nov. 12.
The Steelers have used him primarily for blocking and special teams duty.
Like many players making the transition
from the college to the pro game, Paulson said one of the major differences on the field has been the speed, precision and talent of the players.
“They’re here for a reason. You have a tough matchup every week. Everyone you go up against is a good player,” Paulson said. “In college, you’d have tough matchups, but here or there you’d have ones where you were definitely more talented. In the pros, everybody is talented, so it comes down to the small things.”
To take care of the small things, Paulson does the hard work. The 6-foot-4, 246-pound Paulson, who possesses good speed and soft hands, typically puts in about 40 hours a week working on his game.
“I usually go in the morning around 7 and get a workout in, then we have meetings and walkthroughs for a few hours,” Paulson sad. “You get ready for practice and do that for a couple hours. Then it’s more meetings for another hour, then you get in the ice tub or hot tub and take care of your body.”
He is not taking anything for granted. The competition was fierce to make the opening-day roster, but Paulson impressed enough coaches and players to earn his way.
“There are no guaranteed spots in the NFL,” Paulson said. “We were all competing for 53 spots.
“And there is some great talent at this level, guys who have been doing it a really long time and know what they’re doing. And then there are guys who are rookies like I was, trying to figure it all out.”
The rookie has proven to be a quick study. Paulson excels in the film room.
Paulson – a three-time, first-team, all-academic Pac-12 selection at Oregon – earned an undergraduate degree in business — with a 3.67 grade-point average — and completed his master’s in business administration at the U of O last June.
He plans to pursue a career in sports marketing following his NFL days.
For now, Paulson says, he feels right at home in Pittsburgh.
“We have a great fan base here,” he said. “When you have a home game I think everybody in the stadium has a Steeler jersey or shirt on. They’re really passionate about their football, and you see that in the city also.
“It’s kind of cool. It almost reminds me of being back in the college environment. It’s like back in Eugene, where everybody was supporting the Ducks.”